Standards have grown primarily from two sources:
Customer-driven standards emerge from popular acceptance. The best example of this is the term "PC-compatible," which means that a product will work with an IBM Personal Computer or clone. However, as the networking business grew through the mid- and late-l980s, it became apparent that customer-driven popularity was not adequate for creating and imposing standards.
In the early years of networking, several large companies, including IBM, Honeywell, and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), used their own proprietary standards for how computers could be connected.
These standards described how to move data from one computer to another, but the standards applied only if all the computers were made by the same company. Getting equipment from one vendor to communicate with equipment from another vendor was problematic.
For example, networks adhering to IBM's complex networking architecture, called Systems Network Architecture (SNA), could not directly communicate with networks using DEC's Digital Network Architecture (DNA).
As networking technology matured, businesses began to trust crucial data to networking. But in the mid-1980s, the same communication problems existed between network vendors that had existed earlier among mainframe vendors. The increasing need for businesses to interact and share data was inescapable.
Computer manufacturers saw this as a business opportunity. They realized that networking technology which enabled communication by conforming to standards would be far more profitable in the long run than equipment that would work only in a single-vendor environment. As a result, standards gradually became a part of the computer and network environment.
Today, certain domestic and international organizations, rather than customers, create and define nearly all networking technical standards.
Some of these organizations have existed for many years, and some, such as the SQL Access Group, have evolved more recently as new applications have appeared. These, in turn, created new networking environments that required new guidelines.
Although there are probably dozens of organizations currently advocating standards of every description, only a few have gained the recognition required to enlist the support of major computing vendors. These associations and organizations have become the foundation upon which network acceptance is based. Therefore, network engineers need to be familiar with the names of the organizations and the networking areas they influence.